Observer senior reporter

Friday, August 17, 2018

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DESPITE requests by the relatively new Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS) with an aim to discuss a 100 per cent hike in route taxi fares, no meetings have been held so far.

A source at the Ministry of Transport and Mining told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday that a fare hike would not have been part of the agenda for current consultations the portfolio minister, Robert Montague, would be having with stakeholders.

“That is an issue for the Transport Authority (TA),” said our source.

The TODSS had noted that that bus fares had not increased in 14 years, and taxi fares in five years.

Earlier this month, on assuming the portfolio, Montague announced that he would be having a series of consultations with the operators. However, these discussions have been confined to his 16-point proposal aimed at overhauling the public transportation system, which he announced in the recent sectoral debate.

The minister had made it clear that the government was not intent on considering an increase in bus and taxi fares at this time.

Auto also understands that many route taxi operators fear losing passengers, in what has become a fiercely competitive public transportation sector, if they implement an increase on the current $100 all-stage fare.

The competition has not only heightened with a significant increase in applications for operator's licences over the past two years, but is also expected to be heightened by Montague's plans to open up all public transportation routes to applicants for licences to operate privately owned public passenger vehicles.

Montague plans to request the TA to allow operators to design and craft their own routes, where transportation is lacking, and apply for it to be registered.

He is also recommending that once an individual is awarded a route, it must be kept for a minimum of 30 days before an application can be made for a route change.

The Island Traffic Authority (ITA) said it received 59,900 applications for public passenger service licences last year, compared to 55,684 in the previous year. This included 26,543 PPVs (public passenger vehicle) licences and 33,543 commercial carriage licences, reflecting 13.4 per cent and 3.4 per cent increases, respectively.

Notably, all licence types within the PPV category recorded significant increases in the number of application.

Montague's plan proposes that the renewal of licences must be in the owner's birth month and not in April, as is the current practice, and that all taxis must be fitted with a stipulated vehicle locator that must always be operational.

The minister has said that he believes that market forces should decide the saturation point, and this is expected to be the main determinant in allowing future fares to increase.

“This Government believes in the power of the market and believes that we must allow the market to determine the saturation point. To that end, we want to open all routes in Jamaica. We will,” he told Parliament in May.

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